Congress Foreign Affairs

A Quick Guide to the Nunes Memo: What is it and Should it Be Released?

The House Intelligence Committee – a committee of the House of Representatives charged with oversight of the US intelligence community (e.g. military, NSA, FBI) – voted on Monday to release a “Republican memo” said to shine a light on the alleged corrupt motivations behind the Russia inquiry led by Mueller.

Who wrote the memo?

Devin Nunes, the Republican Chairman of the Intelligence Committee, is said to have written at least part of the memo. Other sources have stated, however, that Nunes’ top staffer, Kash Patel, did most of the drafting.

What does the memo say?

Since the memo hasn’t been released yet, its contents remain mostly undisclosed. Nonetheless, it has been reported that the memo is a four-page summary of how the FBI and the Department of Justice fraudulently maneuvered a way of obtaining secret information about Carter Page, a foreign policy advisor to Donald Trump during the 2016 elections.

Basically, in order to engage in surveillance of an individual who is believed to be a spy or a terrorist, the FBI must go to a judge who is authorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to issue such warrants. FISA requires that the FBI show probable cause that, in this case, Carter Page is acting as an “agent of a foreign power.” The Department of Justice has to approve such FBI requests before they are presented to a FISA judge.

The Nunes Memo alleges that the FBI and the Department of Justice did not disclose that some of the information used to show probable cause against Page was based on the so-called Steele dossier. This dossier encompasses research gathered by former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele, who is said to have been paid by the Democratic National Committee or the Clinton campaign. Hence, the memo implies that because the FBI and the Department of Justice omitted this fact, the Mueller investigation of potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia is corrupted. 

When will it be released?

On Monday, the House Intelligence Committee voted along party lines to release the memo. They used a little-known rule of the House (Clause 11 of Rule X of the Standing Rules) that allows committees to disclose classified information if “the public interest would be served by such disclosure.”

After this, Trump had five days to block or allow the memo to be released to the public. Trump has expressed his desire to make the memo public and prove to the people that the Russia inquiry is merely a “witch-hunt.”

Should it be released?

Despite the #ReleaseTheMemo Twitter campaign, the FBI issued a public objection to allowing the memo to be released. The DOJ similarly stated that releasing the memo would be “extremely reckless.” They argue that releasing the memo, which contains classified information, could compromise our intelligence gathering methods as well as ongoing and future investigations. The FBI director asked to review the memo before its release, but the Intelligence Committee denied his request. Democrats have also claimed that the memo is misleading because it ignores essential information (that we can’t know because it’s classified and not included in the memo) and only mentions the information that is suitable for the Republicans’ agenda.

Republicans counter that they are just making essential information available to the public that will show how government agents and agencies are biased against the President.

What do you think? Should the memo be released?

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